Review Date: May 12, 2008
Released by: Severin
Release date: 3/25/2008
Region 1, NTSC
So I just finish watching the child-friendly slasher remake, Prom Night
, with all its suppressed sexuality and truncated terror. I need something depraved. Something with edge. Look no further than Italy in the seventies, and thanks to Severin Films I had to look no further than my DVD shelf. The Sister of Ursula
, one of the most notorious examples of the late-seventies giallo, seems like the perfect ticket. Lots of sex, lots of murder, and one giant penile weapon. How can you go wrong? Add in some notable actors from Suspiria
and Donít Torture a Duckling
and there might just be a touch of class to go around, too. Letís see what Ursulaís got under that top.
Ursulaís father is dead, so what better way to mourn than to go off to an exotic beach house for a bunch of sultry sex? Ursula (Barbara Magnolfi
) and her titular cohort Dagmar (Stefania DíAmario
) are trying to put their fatherís history behind them, but Ursula continues to be the victim of lucid dreams of death. Or are they premonitions? Theyíre all the same Ė a couple making love, only to be interrupted by a murderer with dark eyes and darker gloves, and one giant wooden dildo. When one of these dreams becomes reality though, and a prostitute is found with her vagina pillaged Cannibal Holocaust
style, Ursulaís dreams become cause for concern. Whoís next?
As it goes, Ursulaís father had a nervous breakdown and was rendered impotent many years ago. When their ďslutĒ of a mother left him because of his malfunction, he later took his life. Or did he? Ursula claims heís still alive, at least in her dreams, but thereís a ton of other suspects on the prowl. Is it duplicitous drug dealer Filippo (Marc Porel
), horny hotel headmaster Roberto (Vanni Materassi
) or skanky stage singer Stella Shining (Yvonne Harlow
)? The truth is revealed only at the end, and it all points to that slivering love lumber.
Well, The Sister of Ursula
(why the hell is it called that anyway?) delivered one thing of the two things missing in Prom Night (2008)
: sex. Thereís a lot of it. Guy on girl, girl on girl, guy watching guy on girl, old mustachioed man eating out a girlís anus, etc. Unfortunately, the one thing youíd think the movie would have in the bag - considering it involves a killer pummeling women with a wooden phallus, ultraviolence, is sadly missing. We never see the actual act of death, and only just a shot of the aftermath.
Basically, it goes down like this: Everyone goes to the bar, a woman sings an English song, two people of varied denomination break off and soft core shag, a dark shot of the killerís eyes, a shadow of the phallus on the wall, a police investigation of a woman with a bloodied birth canal. Rinse, repeat. I thought Prom Night (2008)
was by the numbers, but this is literally a mechanical as you can get. They even use the exact same shot of the killerís eyes each time. Like would it have really killed the production to shoot a couple varied angles of the eyes or the face? The way itís presented now, itís definitely all about the sex, with the violence, and story for that matter, seeming like an afterthought. The concept was sound, and the resolution even offers some deep seeded sexual drama, but without the coverage or focus, the dramatic, erm, thrust, is lost.
This isnít like the sexified Sergio Martino gialli, where the sex only helped fuel the carnal qualities of the story. Instead, in The Sister of Ursula
, the sex does nothing but hinder it, constantly slowing any momentum in favor of brillowy bush. Itís like two units were at play, the sex unit getting the 400 foot rolls, and the violence and story unit getting the short ends. Itís a mishmash of a movie that just isnít entirely satisfying as either an erotic movie or a giallo. Just sort of a mediocre mix of both.
In the realm of sexploitation-horror, The Sister of Ursula
is more like Erotic Nights of the Living Dead
rather than the Zebedy Colt school of fucked up phallic fantasy. That is to say, itís more like porn with a few horror asides rather than a truly committed, depraved, adultís only sexual symbiosis. It does have appealing stars, an iconic weapon and a pretty lovely score by Mimi Uva, so the filmís definitely not a total loss. Itís just more of a disappointment, since the form was all there in the concept. The execution though, is as faceless as the Christ figure Ursula so desperately cries to. Considering the pretty bleak state of giallo imports these days, in this case the body might just be enough.
Severin is again in fine form with this saturated 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The colors are vivid and varied, with deep blue waters in some scenes, vibrant foliage in others, and even some intentionally muted compositions during some of the procedural bits. Itís all visually interesting like the Italians love it, and Severin has again done that aesthetic justice with this pretty transfer. The edges seem a little jagged at times, and there are some dirt and debris that lightly pepper the image, but overall itís another appealing transfer from these fine folks.
The Psychic was plagued with some bad mixing problems, but thankfully the sound here comes off without a hitch. Italian mono only, the sound comes through without any hiss, fuzz or drop outs. Itís all very clean, and Mimi Uvaís sweet score plays in such constant succession that youíd want nothing less. Considering the main theme is sung awkwardly in English itís a wonder if an English language print is sitting around, but even without it thereís nothing to balk at here.
Included in this release is a pretty top-notch interview with Director Enzo Milioni. The 30-minute interview looks at the genesis of the project, the histories of the actors involved, the location and finally that infamous wooden prop. Milioni speaks well, and his stories about his actors are all very detailed, and in the case of Barbara Magnolfi and Marc Porel, at times moving. He explains how Porel and Magnolfi had a relationship, and how Porel was, like his character, dealing with drug addiction in real life, which ultimately lead to his death. The other notable of the interview is the unveiling of the penile prop that Milioni still has, and how it was actually intended as sexless carving of a monk! He doesnít take the film too seriously, but Milioni still gives is an interesting respect, validating it all with an attack on the hardcore version that was later edited. Great stuff.
The release is closed off with an English subtitled Italian trailer thatís more like a cliff notes summary of plot points for those who have just seen the film. That and a whole bunch of sex. Thereís some funny title cards too, questioning whether Ursulaís sister is a nymphomaniac, and other deprecating labels.
As softcore pornography, The Sister of Ursula
more than delivers with many a beautiful woman in many a sexual place. As a giallo though, itís more a missed opportunity, with its high-concept more or less an afterthought. The murders all lack coverage, and when the murder weapon is something as notable as a monk wood carving turned dildo, such negligence is unacceptable! Severin has done a fine job with this DVD though, with a vibrant visual transfer, satisfying sound mix and an interesting interview. Considering Severin is the only North American outlet putting out gialli these days, horror fans may still want to put out to support the cause with this mediocre thriller. Ursulaís sister may put out, but The Sister of Ursula
certainly skimps on story.
Movie - C-
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B+
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 35 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Italian mono
- English subtitles
- Interview with Director Enzo Milioni
- Theatrical trailer